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Whatever Your Hand Finds to Do

My name is Janet. I am a perfectionist. I wish I could say I were a recovering perfectionist, but that would only be wishful thinking. It isn’t for lack of trying, though. I’ve read many books on the subject. Perhaps you have too? If so, you know escape from this, um, malady is quite elusive.

God’s been talking to me about this today, though. Bombarding me with thoughts from every source. I think maybe I’m starting to catch on. Perhaps if I share some of these thoughts with you, one or two will stick with me . . . so someday I can be perfect! (You see how defeating this tendency is?!) But someday I will be because God is perfecting me. He just isn’t done yet, and I keep trying to hurry Him up.

Today’s barrage began with these verses:

“The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them, and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” -1 Samuel 10:6-7

These were Samuel’s words to Saul as he prepared to crown him Israel’s new king. Saul wasn’t anybody, and he was far from perfect, but God chose him, and God’s Spirit changed him. Had Saul embraced this change, God’s Spirit within him – God’s guiding Presence all around him, he would have done no wrong by doing whatever his hand found to do! Unfortunately, he let being a king go to his head and chose to go his own way. Things went badly for him after that. But for a longing-to-recover-perfectionist, these words are quite freeing. So long as God is with me, His Spirit within me, my heart devoted to Him, I don’t have to fear making mistakes. I can do whatever my hand finds to do for Him, and God will use it somehow. In fact, I trust that even if my attempt is misguided, He’ll recognize my heart in the right place, redeem the intent, and use it anyway! He is able to do that because He is God.

After reading that passage in Samuel’s first book, I found these words in a devotional:

“God’s grace changed me, so over time I stopped thinking about all the things that were wrong with me and I started thinking more about all the things that were right with Jesus. I have since discovered that we become what we behold, and as I beheld Jesus, I started to become more like Him because God’s Spirit was at work in me.” -Christine Caine, Unshakeable, p. 46

God’s Spirit changed Saul. God’s grace changed Christine. God changes you and me, too! But when grace changed Christine, it taught her to refocus her thoughts. I love that she learned to stop thinking about all the things that were wrong with her, thinking about all the things that are right with Jesus instead. To me, this sounded like a new Parachute Prayer. Let’s call it the Parachute Prayer for the Perfectionist! Whenever we catch ourselves trying to fix ourselves, we can praise God for Who He Is instead. In time, He’ll do the fixing. Our job is to behold Him and wait.

Next, I came across this verse:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

I gave myself this lecture in my journal:

“Get off the performance treadmill and embrace grace! Focus on Who God Is and all He has done. Worship Him instead of berating yourself. He will gently change you. Let Him do the work while you wait and worship and do whatever He leads you to do. ‘Wax on. Wax off.’ Some day it will all make sense.”

For those who don’t understand the waxy reference, it’s from the movie, The Karate Kid. The kid wanted to learn karate. His teacher had him wax his car. He didn’t understand, but he obeyed. Later, it proved to be a valuable part of his training. Sometimes God works with us in the same way. We do whatever he leads us to do; He does His mysterious work in us.

And finally, our pastor preached from this verse as he wrapped up his Trust Issues series from Psalm 23:

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” -Psalm 23:6

Now I’ve really enjoyed this series and took careful notes all the way through, even today! But God was still talking to me about perfectionism, so I got two messages this morning at church. I’m mostly going to write about what God was saying to me. To illustrate his message, our pastor chose a picture of a girl hiking up a mountain. The photographer focused on the back of her head, shoulders, and backpack, so it felt as if we were following her. All morning, God had been telling me to focus on Him instead of my imperfections, to do whatever he led me to do. That picture and verse made everything clear to me in a unique way.

Because my husband is in the military, we’ve moved many times. This means there have been many times that I have gotten into a fully loaded car, pulled out behind my husband driving a fully loaded truck, and followed him across the country, always with a child or two or three, and sometimes a dog in the seats surrounding me. And when we started doing this more than twenty years ago, we didn’t have phones with GPS’s on them to tell us where to go. My husband had the map; I followed him. In fact, because I wanted to get where we were going and have a terrible fear of getting lost, I followed closely. I matched his speed. I stayed in the same lane. I got off the road if he got off the road. I focused on the back of his vehicle, knowing it would lead me where I wanted to go.

When we follow Jesus, our Shepherd, this way, His goodness and love follow us. In fact, our pastor said the Hebrew word means they literally chase us. In my mind, being perfect is being Christlike which is being perfectly loving and good in every circumstance. Therefore, instead of me pursuing perfection, I follow Christ – with the intensity of one who does not want to get lost! – and then the very thing that’s been eluding me all of my life will begin to chase me – as Jesus leads me home.

If I try to be perfect, I will fail. If I follow Jesus wherever He leads, God will eventually perfect me. And I will dwell in His Presence forever. You can, too!

My name is Janet. I’m a child of God. I want to be whatever He wants me to be, so I’m watching to see what He’s doing and where He will lead. I know He’s working through all things for good, to benefit His Kingdom and glorify His Name. I am thankful He’s invited me – just as I am – to be part of His work.

Father, You’ve given us so many reasons to take our eyes off of ourselves and to put them on You. You are worthy of our worship and of all of our thoughts. Please help me to remember today’s lessons. Expand on them as You will. And use them to help others who struggle as I do. I thank You, Lord. Amen.


You can read more lessons I learned from moving in my book, Home Is Where God Sends You, available from Amazon. My book on Parachute Prayer is available there as well.

 

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When God says, “Pay Attention!”

Today’s Parachute Prayer is a prelude to more extended prayer. Let’s start with the Parachute.

Sometimes when you’re going about the business of your day, you may sense God saying, “Pay attention. There’s a lesson here.” or “This is what I’m like.” or “This shows what I’m trying to accomplish in your life!”

This happened to me a few days back while our family was watching a movie. The main character had a mentor. The mentor was hard on him and often left him feeling frustrated. But he came to learn that the mentor was hard because she cared, because the lessons he needed to learn were crucial, not only for his own good, but also for the good of the world – perhaps the universe! It was a silly movie, but in the moment when the main character realized the truth about his mentor, God got my attention. Yes. Sometimes He is hard on me, but He always loves me. He pushes me because He’s training me to be the person He created me to be, to fulfill a purpose He designed me for and it for me. The hero in the movie learned what his mentor was trying to teach, and it made all the difference. Learning from God makes all the difference for me as well in all things small and big.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I call these random thoughts from God Wildflower Thoughts. I encourage you to stop and think on these thoughts, to discover where they lead, what God is trying to teach. He can speak to us through anything, and He will if we’ll take the time to listen, to let His thoughts work their way into our heads. So let’s turn talking about them in the moment into a Parachute Prayer!

Then let’s be intentional about taking them back to God for a more extended discussion later in the day. I like to write these thoughts out; sometimes I share my discoveries with you. As we take the time to write, pray, and study (to see what God’s Word has to say about the matter), God’s Spirit will more fully develop God’s lessons in our lives.

Pay attention! God is speaking. Talk with Him about the thoughts He puts in your head today.

Father, thank You for finding unique ways to get our attention as You are continually teaching us new things: about You, about Your Kingdom, about Your work, about Your purpose for our lives. Help us to pay attention then to talk to You about these lessons. Remind us to bring them back to You for deeper insights in light of Your Word, cementing Your thoughts in our minds. We love You, Lord. We long to learn what You love to teach. Help us, please. Amen.

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A Parachute Prayer for the Frazzled and Harassed

Ever have one of those days when every piece of mail, every e-mail or text message, and every phone call seems to contain an urgent demand, a problem to fix immediately? Days like that can leave one feeling frazzled and harassed. So can some people or circumstances if they keep coming at us day after day with some perceived need or complaint. Not being able to soothe them or fix things can fill us with unrest and stress.

This is a call for prayer. I have two suggestions for you today.

First, at the moment of harassment, as you open the letter or read the text, pray. Say, “God, I know You are seeing this right along with me. Please give me the wisdom, strength, and help I need. I commit this to Your care right now.” We are not alone in our struggles, and God is able to handle them for us, to grant us His grace, His favor, and His peace.

Second, whenever you feel overwhelming agitation, panic, or stress, find a quiet place alone and simply stop. Be still in God’s Presence. In fact, if your smart phone, watch, or fitness device has a stop watch feature, set it for 1 to 5 minutes. Sit where you won’t be distracted and pray until the timer goes off. Devote those minutes exclusively to God.

How you pray during these devoted minutes is important, though. You may be tempted to spend the whole time complaining about everything in your life that is pressuring you, but that will only increase your agitation, panic, and stress. Instead, give these to God quickly, as you did in the above first step, then spend the rest of the time praising God for everything You know about Him that makes Him able and willing to care for you, enjoy His Presence, and thank Him for His good gifts. If you have time, look for the gifts contained in the people or circumstances that are causing you stress. Thank God for these especially.

Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble, but then He told us to take heart (have courage) because He has overcome the world. Sitting in His Presence reminds us that He is in charge and fills us with His peace. This gives us the strength we need to move forward through whatever tries to frazzle; Jesus will provide the self-control and calm spirit we need.

Father, please teach us to come to You when our spirits need soothing. Thank You for knowing who or what is harassing us in the course of a day. Thank You for being in control and able to handle it all! We’re so blessed to be Your children. We’re so thankful You are our God.


If you’d like to learn more about Parachute Prayer, perhaps develop a new habit in the coming year, my book on the subject is available on Amazon. To find it, click here.

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Praying When We Feel Hungry

Parachute PrayerAre you ready for the first Parachute Prayer of the new year? I discovered this one while taking my son to the airport last week. It was a long drive, and we were running a little late. Suddenly my stomach started growling. I have no idea why; we’d just eaten a good dinner. But my stomach was hungry, and I didn’t dare ask to stop for food. We needed to get our boy to the airport on time.

My youngest son would call this a first world problem, but I didn’t really see it as a problem. I didn’t need to eat, and I knew when I’d be able to eat. My stomach just had to be patient. Thinking about this reminded me, however, that there are those who do need to eat and who don’t know when they’ll next be able to eat. They became the subject of this new Parachute Prayer.

Hunger ParachuteWhenever we feel hungry but can’t eat right away, let’s pray for hungry people who don’t know when they’ll get their next meal or if they’ll get enough to feel satisfied when they do. Let’s ask God to provide generously. Let’s ask Him to prompt others to pray—and to serve. Let’s ask Him what He wants us to do—on a regular basis—to help relieve this problem . . . in our communities . . . all over the world.

Then, if we have time (or maybe later when we have time), let’s let this Parachute lead us to others regarding needs in society. When we let Him, God’s Spirit will guide our thoughts from one prayer concern to another related concern and to another and on and on. Linger over the ones that most burden your heart. Trust all to our sovereign, loving God—the God Who Sees.

Father, thank You for seeing the needs of Your children all over this world. Please provide food, clothing, and shelter for those who don’t regularly have access to these basic needs. Warmth is crucial in many places at this time of year. Help the lonely find family and friends. Thank You for Your care. Thank You also for letting us participate in Your provision plan. Show us what we can do and prompt us to obey. We love You, therefore we love others. Help us to love generously in both word and deed . . . as Jesus did. Amen.

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The Conversation Begins: Parachute Prayer

Parachute Prayer PostI confess. I’m cheating this week because I’m enjoying holiday time with my family. The following post was first printed at Wildflower Thinking on September 14, 2008. It’s where the Parachute Prayer concept began.


Dear Readers,

When I first started writing this blog, I told you my goal is to become more intentional about seeking, finding, and sharing the Truths God has for me to learn. He’s planted life’s lessons everywhere, like wildflowers. I just have to slow down and pay attention, so I won’t walk on by leaving them unnoticed, unlearned, and untold—to wither and die unseen.

Another goal of mine is to become more intentional about sending up prayers about anything and everything all the time. Paul told us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17KJV). Practicing that concept can be fun! So from time to time, as I come up with a new prayer prompt or trigger, I’ll share the idea with you.

I realized these prayer reminders need a name you’ll recognize, and I wanted the name to fit my wildflower theme. Dandelions immediately came to mind. You pick a dandelion, blow on it gently, and send the seeds flying through the air. Prayer is like that. You send your prayers to Heaven, and God just blesses everyone! You never know where the blessings will land—but God does. They aren’t as random as they seem.

Interestingly enough, the little, fluffy grey things that blow off the dandelions to carry the seeds are called parachutes. And that image fits the concept I’m trying to communicate so perfectly from my perspective, that I think I’ll use it. When you see a blog titled, “Parachute Prayers,” you’ll know it’s an idea to promote prayer without ceasing in our lives. I hope you’ll find these ideas useful. I won’t post them unless they’ve been helpful to me.

Parachute Prayer #1
As you read the headlines in your paper or on your homepage, whisper short prayers for the people involved. Today we could pray for victims of Hurricane Ike, their families, and their rescuers. We could also pray for those injured in the Los Angeles train wreck and the Ural Mountain plane crash. Of course, the election outcome should be fervently in our prayers.*

You may come across local and human interest stories to pray about while you read, too. As you pray for strangers in your city and around the world, God will bring people you know and their personal needs to mind as well. Send up a few prayers for them before you go on your way. Parachute prayers are like wildflower thoughts. When you stop to consider one, you’ll find another behind it, then another and so on as you go through your day.


Since 2008, I’ve written many more Parachute Prayer prompts now available in my book by that name. To purchase it on Amazon, click here.


*Those were the headlines in 2008. Today I’m praying for tornado and flood victims. Of course, election issues are already and still in the news.

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Memory Gratitude

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Who Can We Pray For?

The Conversation BeginsIf you’ve been following this series, you already know the answer to this question. We can pray for anyone whose name or face comes to mind. In fact, if their name or face comes to mind, we can get in the habit of considering it a call to prayer. If we’re aware that God’s Spirit is with us always and learn to pay attention to His prompts, He’ll call us to pray for others more often than you may think. I’ve written about this in Parachute Prayer: the Practice of Praying Continually. I invite you read that book to learn more about this discipline.*

Here are a few ideas for now:

  1. We can pray for God. Jesus did! In The Lord’s Prayer, He prayed that God’s kingdom would come and His will be done.  We can ask for this, too. Does God need our prayers in order for His purposes to be accomplished? Ultimately, I don’t think so. I suspect the prayer for God is really for our benefit and for the benefit of those around us. When we ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will be done, we’ll become more aware of ways we can participate. We’ll become more willing and eager to participate. God’s Spirit will work through us to draw others into the action, too.
  2. Who We Can Pray ForWe can pray for our families.
  3. We can pray for our friends.
  4. We can pray for ourselves.
  5. We can pray for our churches.
  6. We can pray for our communities.
  7. We can pray for people who serve our families and communities.
  8. We can pray for our nation.
  9. We can pray for our world.
  10. We can pray for strangers we encounter while out and about.
  11. We can pray about needs we see on the internet, in the paper, or on TV.

We can pray for specifics if we know them, but if we don’t and sense a reason to pray, we can pray generically. God knows what’s going on in other people’s lives even when we don’t. Going one step further, we don’t even have to wait until we sense that someone needs a prayer. If we’re sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight, we can talk to God about the fellow travelers who come into view. If someone treats us with unexpected kindness—or undeserved grumpiness—we can whisper a prayer for that person as we go on our way. One deserves a blessing; the other may need it desperately.

Father, please make us sensitive to Your Spirit’s call to pray—for anyone, anywhere. You know the whole world’s needs. Thank You for inviting us to participate as You work in our world. Thy Kingdom come, Lord. Amen.


*If you’re starting to think about Christmas, Parachute Prayer even has a section on praying through the holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and more. To order a copy from Amazon.com, click here.

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Praying Our Way through Fear

Not So Evil Clown

I can almost look at this picture without being terrified.

October. The month when people tend to celebrate all things scary. I don’t take it too seriously. My husband and I don’t decorate, but I don’t mind if the neighbors do. Bats, cats, pumpkins, skeletons, evil clowns . . . wait . . . no, no, no! Our neighbor across the street has actually plastered a clown face three times the size of his front door to the front of his house – the house that is facing mine! (This morning, I’m kind of hoping that the storm melted it down. Or does that only work for witches?) Clowns are fearsome things.

So I have a new Parachute Prayer today. When we see things that frighten us, let’s pray. Let’s let these fearsome things remind us to ask God for courage and for protection – for ourselves, for our families, from evils seen and unseen. Then let’s thank God for using these to remind us He is there. He is with us. And He is bigger than anything!

Father, thank You for watching over us. Thank You for Your presence, for Your protection, and for the courage that comes from knowing You are here. We love You, Lord! Amen.


You can find more Parachute Prayers in my book about them. Click here to order from Amazon.

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The Find-a-Penny Prayer

“Find a penny. Pick it up. All the day you’ll have good luck.”

I found a penny on the ground by my truck yesterday. I wasn’t even tempted to pick it up. I live in Texas now. It’s hot. That penny would have burned my fingers. But seeing it made me smile. I remember how exciting it was, as a child, to find a penny on the ground.

Find a Penny PrayerThough I didn’t claim yesterday’s penny, a new value for found pennies occurred to me. When we see pennies on the ground, let’s pray for the people who dropped them. The lost penny may not have caused great financial hardship (unless they’d been desperate for a cup of coffee, searched their car for change, found exactly the right amount needed, then dropped that one penny . . . these things do happen). But we can ask God to bless them financially, help them manage their money wisely, or even just to do something that will brighten their day.

Then, if we don’t pick up the penny ourselves, we can pray for the person who will! I’m picturing a child, but I also remember a pastor who used found pennies as a sermon illustration and explained why he always picks them up. (I don’t remember why, though, just that he always does. I’m guessing I didn’t remember what he’d hoped I would.)

Regardless, let’s let found pennies remind us to pray for those who dropped them and those who will pick them up. A conversation with Jesus is better than hoping for luck.


You know, I have to admit that some of the prayer prompts I come up with, like this one, sometimes seem a little silly at first. But I love discovering that something as simple as a penny on the ground can remind me to talk to God on another person’s behalf and that, as I talk to Him for that person, His Spirit immediately reminds me of other things to talk to Him about. As quick as that, I’m praying as I go about the random business of my day. And maybe that person who dropped a penny really needs to be remembered in prayer. Or maybe that prayer will remind me to pray for someone else’s known need that I forgotten to talk over with God. Or maybe God just wants to get my attention—for us to spend some time together in the middle of a busy day. I can’t look at anything that reminds me to talk to God as silly when I consider it that way. May everything around us come to remind us to pray.

Father, thank You for drawing my attention to a shiny penny on hot pavement. Thank You for reminding me to pray. Please help us all remember to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We love You. We love meeting with You—anytime of day. Amen.

For more prayer prompts, read my book, Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Available for Kindle at Amazon.com or in paperback through several on-line bookstores.

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That the Fully Committed Will Stay Strong

Parachute Prayer Post“And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” -1 Kings 8:61

After Solomon built and dedicated God’s Temple, he spoke to the people. 1 Kings 8:61 records some of his words. When I read the first phrase of this verse, I started to pray for people I know who aren’t fully committed to the Lord. But then I read the last phrase. Solomon wasn’t urging the people to become committed to the Lord; he wanted them to stay that way. That little phrase, as at this time, reminded me, once again, that while it’s important to pray for the one lost sheep to be found (Luke 15:1-7), it’s also important to pray for the 99 who are safely in the fold.

And Solomon’s own life proves this. Just three chapters later, we read of Solomon’s downfall and death. This king who urged God’s people to remain faithful did not. Tragically, his choices set a series of events in motion that led the whole nation to fall. Likewise, when strong Christians falter, they tend to take others down with them. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” When our enemy gets hold of someone influential, he’s especially thrilled. It’s his opportunity to take a whole herd. For everyone’s sake, we must pray that those who are committed to God will find the strength in Him to stay that way.

Because Solomon was a king and because Christians are God’s “chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), let’s let symbols of royalty be our prompt to pray. When we see crowns, thrones, scepters, news of one royal family or another, let’s ask God to strengthen those who are fully committed to Him. May their hearts remain that way for their good, for the good of God’s Kingdom, and for God’s glory. Amen.


For more prayer prompts, read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Available in paperback or for Kindle.